We sat down with Dónal Kearny, a singer and educator who was part of The Ideas Collective in 2015, to learn more about his experiences.

Through the support of The Ideas Collective Dónal founded the artistic advocacy platform VOCALISM. VOCALISM is a means of promoting self-expression and confronting social exclusion – through songs, stories or ideas. Dónal holds song workshops for people from marginalised groups across Ireland, so they can explore and develop soft and hard skills.

What was the issue bugging you that brought you to The Ideas Collective?

I was drawn to The Ideas Collective in 2015 with homelessness in mind. I thought of it as something blatant yet invisible, and still do. My thinking on social engagement and entrepreneurship has been deeply influenced by this issue.

Dónal Kearny, VOCALISM, The Ideas Collective, Suas Educational Development

Do you think of yourself as an activist or a social entrepreneur? 

Now that I am running a community business, I suppose I see myself as a social entrepreneur. Though I wouldn’t use the term in conversation. My company is a music school in north Dublin, so it is also a form of ‘creative entrepreneurship’, which is a term I’ve come across since The Ideas Collective. The evolution of the sector continues to excite and bewilder me in equal measure.

What’s the difference between someone who gets off their arse to act for change and someone who doesn’t?

I suppose the difference is drive. If someone is driven to do something, they will probably achieve it, whatever it may be. Some people want to make money, so they channel their resources into a lucrative career. Others want to be artists, so they spend their time, money and life creating art. It’s about devotion and commitment. The same applies to social enterprises. You need to be driven before you can do what needs to be done. You have to believe in your goals, whatever they are.

What was the hardest part of The Ideas Collective experience?

I found the hardest part to be the reflective learning. Knowing myself was – and is – something I struggle with.

And the best?

Feeling that the other participants cared about what I wanted to do. And actually caring about what others wanted to do. It was really inspirational in a very basic way.

Were the other people sound?

I am very glad I could connect with the other people on the programme. There was a lot of honesty, vulnerability, ambition, strength and it was beautiful to be part of it in a very responsive sense.

What connections can you see between your project on the Collective and what you’re up to now?

My project was focused on helping people through use of their voice, employing musical techniques to improve public speaking or presentation skills. I have since workshopped these techniques with half a dozen different groups and founded my own company. Next weekend is my next VOCALiSM workshop, so I’m looking forward to the expansion and development of the content too.

If The Ideas Collective was a biscuit, which biscuit would it be and why?

Seeing as my favourite biscuit has to be the Hobnob, I think that’s my answer. Maybe a chocolate Hobnob.

Could you have an idea as great as VOCALISM in you? Join The Ideas Collective and find out – applications are open!

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